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Clinton: PR Should Decide Its Own Future, UN Should "Decide The Future" In Postwar Iraq…Gov’t Evaluating Canceling Island Security Contracts…Vieques Wildlife Refuge To Be Caribbean’s Largest…Pelosi Meets With Local Officials…Island Seeks To Host Free Trade Discussions…Signature Collection For New Party Can Proceed…Congress OK’s $23 M For Island Security…4 More Military Units To Be Deployed…PR Advances In Davis Cup

Clinton: Puerto Rico Should Decide Its Own Future

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

CAROLINA – Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Saturday that if Puerto Ricans want to solve the status issue they must first decide for themselves what they want.

"You must decide what you want your status to be," Clinton said adding that the United States Government should then do everything to help them make their choice.

Clinton declined to say what his preference for the island status was, not because he didn’t have one but because he believed it wasn’t right for him to do so.

The former President’s stand on the island’s status has not changed since his days in office when he expressed himself in favor of the island’s self-determination.

Clinton made his statements on Saturday night during a dinner in the Ritz Carlton Ballroom in Isla Verde in his honor hosted by the Caribbean Council for Global Studies (CCGS).

The CCGS is a non-profit organization aimed at organizing and promoting visits by world-renowned leaders to the island.

Clinton was paid $125,000 for his over one hour long speech. The president spoke to the Puerto Rican audience about politics, foreign policy, nuclear ammunition being built in North Korea and the war in Iraq.

Attending the dinner were renowned island political and financial and social figures.

Gov Sila Calderon failed to attend as President Clinton said she "was feeling a little under the weather."

Among those who attended were Commonwealth Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila whom Clinton thanked from the podium for his effort in trying to explain what a resident commissioner is.

"I’m not quite sure I understand…How can you be a resident commissioner and a delegate If you are told to go to Washington," Clinton said.

Also attending were Democrat Party main fundraiser Miguel Lausel, Clinton former Puerto Rican Affairs White House Office Director Jeffrey Farrow, Former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo, Economic Development Secretary Milton Segarra and New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera among others.

Clinton Says United Nations Should "Decide The Future" In Postwar Iraq


April 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said he thinks the United Nations should play a significant role in postwar Iraq and that the conflict can have a positive effect on the country.

In a speech lasting past midnight Saturday, Clinton offered prayers to U.S. troops in Iraq and said the war "is a good thing if it's done right."

"I think we ought to let the United Nations decide the future," Clinton told an audience of about 800 people at a banquet sponsored by the Caribbean Council for Global Studies.

President George W. Bush's blueprint for rebuilding Iraq calls for a short-term American civil administrator and an interim authority composed of Iraqis. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is said to prefer a larger U.N. role in the postwar transition, an option favored by European critics of the U.S.-led invasion.

"I want the Iraqi people to be free. I think it was terrible they were abandoned once in 1991," Clinton said, referring to the fact that Saddam Hussein's government stayed in power following the Persian Gulf War.

Clinton also said "the most important thing we can be doing is to finish the job in Afghanistan in uprooting the leadership of al-Qaida."

He expressed regret at not succeeding at "eradicating the leadership" of the terror network in a 1998 missile strike on two of Osama bin Laden's terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

"No matter how many (cells) you take down, they'll just keep coming back unless you get the leadership," he said.

Clinton urged Bush to send more troops to Afghanistan. "This is not a partisan issue: send as however many as you want. Stay until we go through this."

Clinton, who left office in 2001, made his first visit to Puerto Rico as part of a five-day Caribbean tour focused largely on efforts against HIV/AIDS. He visited the Bahamas on Friday and was to travel next to St. Kitts, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Government Evaluating Canceling Island Security Contracts

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

April 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda said Friday that Island Security’s remaining contracts with other government agencies, besides the Education Department, are being evaluated to determine if they will be cancelled.

"We are evaluating the other contracts in their legal terms to see if there is a possibility of canceling them. If there is, then definitely, the governor’s order has been to that effect," the government official said.

Meanwhile, the company’s legal advisor Marta Albelo announced the filing of a $65 million lawsuit against the local government for damages resulting from the government’s decision to not renew the contract with the Education Department.

Island Security’s $11 million monthly contract with the Education Department was cancelled Monday, months after company officials admitted having paid for a political campaign under former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo in order to win the bid.

Miranda explained that the contract with the Education Department was easier to cancel because it was a monthly contract. All the government had to do was to not renew the contract by April 15, which is when the cancellation becomes effective.

However, he said Island Security contracts with other government agencies such as the General Services Administration, Department of Transportation & Public Works, Demographic Registry, and the Treasury Department are not as simple. Therefore, he stated that their legal clauses would be evaluated before making a decision.

Nevertheless, Miranda guaranteed that the intention is to cancel all government contracts with the security company.

The chief of staff issued his statements during a press conference at the Government Reception Hall, following a breakfast with visiting Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco.

Earlier in the week, Education Secretary Cesar Rey ordered the cancellation of the contract with the company that provides security to more than 1,500 public schools on the island.

The decision to cancel the contract with Island Security was made after an investigation at the House Education Committee revealed that the security company had been linked with fraudulent activity at the Education Department under Fajardo’s incumbency.

Vieques Wildlife Refuge To Become Largest In Caribbean

April 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Starting May 1, approximately 16,000 acres in the eastern lands of Vieques, previously used as a U.S. Navy firing range, will be added to the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Interior Secretary Gail Norton said Friday.

The Navy, which has faced protests over bombing exercises on Vieques, plans to move training to places in Florida and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland.

The Navy says it will clean up the land and has already demolished barracks and some wooden observation towers.

The U.S Fish & Wildlife Service of the Interior Department said in a press release that the land transfer will increase the area actually managed as a wildlife refuge in Vieques to 18,659 acres, turning it into the largest Wildlife National Refuge in the Caribbean.

They emphasized that the area has a variety of ecosystems such as mangrove swamps, lakes, luminescent bays, and beaches used by marine turtles that are in danger of extinction.

"The service understands the great cultural and historical value that this area has for the Viequenses. The restoration and conservation of one part of Puerto Rico’s natural legacy provides a great benefit for present and future generations," said Sam D. Hamilton, southeast regional director for U.S Fish & Wildlife Service.

He added that although they have very serious concerns about the presence of unexploded military munitions and that they have to conduct investigations to determine what refuge areas are safe for people, the opportunity to do great things in favor of Caribbean’s wildlife is enormous.

Once the Navy hands over the land, the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to evaluate which activities - such as hiking, bicycling, and fishing - should be allowed.

U.S. House Minority Leader Meets With Local Officials

April 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. House Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi met Friday with Puerto Rican officials and talked on the phone with Gov. Sila Calderon, who did not participate in the meeting because she was unavailable.

Pelosi, from California, met at La Fortaleza with Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila and La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda, with whom she discussed the local government’s special communities project.

Acevedo Vila also proposed that Pelosi include the cleanup of the Martin Peña Canal in an extensive legislation that is approved every five years for water projects in the United States and to grant $85 million in federal funds for the cleanup.

The local government would contribute another $45 million, he said.

"I would do everything possible to help the Martin Peña Canal project, but we have to remember that we are not in power," Pelosi told journalists after the meeting.

The legislator reminded that she visited Vieques last year and demanded the end of U.S. Navy military practices there.

Meanwhile, she said she would lobby so that the Roosevelt Roads Base will not close operations because she knows what the closing of a military center represents economically.

"I come from a district in San Francisco that has had three base closings, and I know what that represents," she said. "There should be a fight to keep the base; if it is not won, at least something should be negotiated."

Pelosi arrived on the island as part of a meeting of Georgetown University alumni and said she will meet with former President Bill Clinton, who will be on the island this weekend for a conference.

The U.S. House Democrat minority chose Pelosi to be their leader in November, making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. Congress, according to the legislator’s Web page.

Island Seeks To Host Of Free Trade Agreement Discussions

April 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – During Costa Rica President Abel Pacheco’s visit to the Capitol on Friday, Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora asked him to intervene so that Puerto Rico could be the host of the discussions of the Central America Free Trade Agreement that will be held next year.

These meetings are the prelude to the Americas Free Trade Agreement, expected to be signed in 2005.

Fas Alzamora made the request during his message in the extraordinary session of the legislative body to welcome the Costa Rican president, who is on a five-day official visit.

Meanwhile, at least in the message to his hosts, the Central American head of state didn’t make any comment about the request and merely, once again, said thank you to the Puerto Ricans for the warm welcome he has received.

Subsequently, the Senate leader said this was the first time this request had been made to Pacheco.

Signatures For Inscriptions Of Political Party Can Go On

April 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. District Court Chief Judge Hector Laffitte ruled that while his decision is being appealed in the Boston Circuit Court of Appeals, those interested in registering a new party can continue to collect signatures without the need to have them sworn in by an attorney.

In Laffitte’s opinion, the State Elections Commission failed to present convincing arguments in their appeal, for which it is most likely that his ruling will prevail.

"2004 is an elections year. Therefore, time is essential for individuals who want to register a new party. If they are forced to wait until the appeal is solved, they would be at a great disadvantage in their goal to register a party for the general elections of 2004," Laffitte said.

According to published reports, the SEC’s motion for appeal was contained in a single page.

U.S. Congress Approves $23 Million For Island Security

April 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The U.S House of Representatives and Senate approved Thursday night an assignment of $23 million for the island’s internal security plan, according to the mandate of the Homeland Security Department.

The assignment was approved by the majority of the House and unanimously by the Senate as part of the legislation of $74.9 million approved for President George W. Bush to support the war in the Middle East and the complementary preparation plan for the war against Iraq, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said in a press release.

" This money is being sent to the Puerto Rico security agencies, the first agencies to face any emergency and to increase the security, and improve the ports and airports infrastructure," said Acevedo Vila.

The resident commissioner explained that according to the legislation, the funds will be available in the next 45 days.

4 More Puerto Rican Military Units To Be Deployed To Iraq

April 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The U.S. Army announced Friday that another four Puerto Rican units have finished their validation process and are ready to leave for the Middle East at any moment.

Army spokesman in Puerto Rico Jose Pagan identified the four validated units as 311 of Funeral Services, 941 of Oil Products Distribution, 292 of Combat Support, and 394 of Field Services.

"The notification of the validation has already been sent to the superior command and the order of deployment and transportation for their departure is expected in the next few days," he said in a press release.

According to Pagan, these four units are added to 755 of Military Police and 346 of Transportation, as well as Battalion 338 of Finances, which are stationed on the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba, waiting for their transfer orders.

He added that in Camp Santiago in Salinas, over 10 units with a total of 1,800 soldiers previously in the National Guard and Reserve who now belong to the active military are waiting orders.

Puerto Rico Advances In Davis Cup Tournament

April 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) - Jamaica and Puerto Rico earned promotion to the Davis Cup American Group Two next year, with victories Thursday.

Jamaica, unbeaten so far in the Group Three playoffs, swept El Salvador 3-0 in the top half of the eight-team draw. Puerto Rico beat Bolivia 2-1 to set up a group final against Jamaica on Friday.

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